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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Author Interview with Denise Verrico

Hello Denise, please tell us about you, as a writer.

My background is in the theatre.  I wrote humor pieces and sketches in school, and I’d even tried my hand at a children’s play.  I didn’t really start writing seriously until I was in my thirties.  My son was around two years old then and my husband in graduate school.  Because of my husband’s school and work schedule, it didn’t allow me to pursue roles in the theatre.  My muse was calling to me to do something creative.  I began writing plays at that time, but I was also reading a lot of vampire fiction, Anne Rice, Fred Saberhagen, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and some of the older tales.  The thought struck me that no one had really tackled the female perspective of the modern vampire.  I actually had a dream about a young female vampire that inspired Mia, the heroine of the first two novels in my series.  My husband urged me to pursue this idea and confront the fact that my protagonist was a woman and the obstacles she faced as a vampire.  Mia lives in a man’s world—an ancient  man’s world at that.

Immortyl Revolution has a sci fi component.  The series plot deals with rival groups of vampires trying to capture the secrets of immortality.  My vampires are essentially human with a biological mutation.  Some of them are better representatives of the species, but most are not.  A  lot of the human beings in the stories aren’t much better than most vampires.  Nobody sparkles in other words. 

Your book My Fearful Symmetry is an urban fantasy vampire novel; perhaps you’d you
give us some insight into it in a few sentences.

A boy becomes a vampire and fights to become a man.  It’s basically a coming of age story, about a young man from the most desperate of circumstances, plunged into the middle of an even bigger nightmare.  In spite of all this, he struggles for freedom.  It’s a tale of lust, intrigue and betrayal.  That sounds sexier. 

How did you come to write this particular book? 

When one is writing a series that involves rival political factions, it’s difficult to pull off in a first person POV.  I like the first person POV because of the sense of intimacy it creates between the reader and the hero or heroine.  However, there are a lot of events that happen within the Immortyl ruling class that effect Mia and Kurt, the heroine and hero of the first two books, that would have to happen offstage, so to speak.  I needed a POV character that could move within the Immortyl ruling class as a close observer, yet is somewhat sympathetic to the aims of the revolution.  I’d created Cedric, the hero of this book, a while ago, intending him as a love interest to a character to come later in the series, but he was just one of those characters who demanded to be heard. 

I’d imagined the Indian origin for my vampire culture early on.  As I did more research, my world building expanded.  I now had created a religion for my Immortyls, a form of Tantra, and a class of sacred courtesans, called the adepts of the ancients arts. 

Why a male courtesan hero?  Well, my Immortyls are somewhat omnivorous when it comes to sexuality.  I’ve always enjoyed Mary Renault’s books about Alexander the Great.  The Persian Boy, the novel she wrote about Alexander’s companion, Bagoas, is one of my favourites.  I thought it might be fun to write about a male courtesan who dreams of becoming a warrior. 

Do you have a favourite character from the book? If so, who and why this particular one?

Well, it would have to be Cedric.  He’s so irrepressible, even after all the hell I put him through.  But if I had a second favourite, it would be Lord Liu.  He’s an elder that Cedric is assigned to entertain for political reasons.  Lord Liu is one of the oldest living Immortyls, very deep, very wise, very powerful.  The two of them develop an interesting relationship. 

Where can people buy your books?

They are available from Amazon and other online retailers in paperback and multi-format ebook.
Links to buy:

What qualities does a writer need to be successful?

Perseverance is very important.  It takes time to develop the skills.  A lot of writers I know never finish anything.  One has to get that first novel down and prepare for rejection.  It’s important to be able to accept constructive criticism.  I belong to two critique groups, and they’ve helped me immensely.

What’s your working method? 

I tend to write dialogue first.  My background as a playwright has a lot of influence on my novels.  I see everything like a movie in my head.  Once the dialogue is sketched out, I fill in the details and revise.  Sometimes, what starts out as dialogue is left unsaid and replaced by meaningful action on the part of the character.  Actors learn that much is said in silence.

What’s the single biggest mistake made by beginner writers? 

The impulse to do too much.  Too much telling, descriptive language, dialogue tags and long, clunky sentences.  Less is more.  Simplicity is best. 

To what extent are grammar and spelling important in writing? 

Ugh, you’ve found my kryptonite.  I’m still struggling with the art of the comma.  The English language is a peculiar animal.  I’m always looking up rules.  Poor grammar and spelling will trip up a writer seeking publication.  Always have several people look over your work for errors.

How much do you revise your MS before sending it off? 

I do a lot in the initial creative process. After my first draft is done, I put the book to critique with my writing groups.  Then I revise again and try to have others look at the book again before I send it out.   I’m revising up until the final proof.

As a writer of urban fantasy, to what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

Well, it helped me. Although my books are nothing like Twilight, that series made vampires very commercial.  I did a search for small publishers seeking vampire series.  However, my genre is overrun with vampires at present and publishers are looking for other creatures in urban fantasy.  Genre fiction has loyal followers.  Romance is the most published genre.  I wish I could write one, but happily-ever-after endings seem to elude me.
Many authors see marketing as a bind. What's your opinion on this, and how do you deal with it?

Marketing is a constant concern for any author, but doubly so for the small press author.  I’m usually promoting somewhere online on a weekly basis, and most months I have two or three public appearances.  At the moment, with the release of the new book, I’m a bit overwhelmed, yet I still try to limit my online time to an hour a day. 

What sort of displacement activities keep you from writing? 

Working for a living always seems to get in the way.  This is the reality for most writers.  I know Bram Stoker winners who work full-time jobs.  Very few make their living entirely from writing. 

It’s important to take time for oneself.   When I’m immersed in a project, I get a little crazy and don’t want to be disturbed by things like eating and sleeping.  I’d live on nothing but coffee and toast if left to my own devices.  I try to go out and walk in the park as often as possible.  Time with family and friends is vital to maintaining sanity.  My husband, son and I love to ride roller coasters.

What support, if any, do you receive from family and friends, or a writing group?

My family is amazing.  My husband and son are both creative people, and we support one another in our endeavours.  My son even hands out my business cards and promotes my books to other musicians on the blogs he frequents.  I couldn’t format my manuscripts to save my life.  My husband does this for me and helps with keeping accounts etc.  One of my nieces did my video trailer and helps me when I’m flummoxed with my website or designing marketing materials.  She and another niece, along with one of their friends, are with me at some of the sci fi/fantasy conventions.  They cheer me on and point me toward food.  I couldn’t do without my critique groups.  I dedicated this book to them.

Is presentation of the MS as important as agents and publishers suggest? 

It’s always best to be as professional as possible.  My niece interned for a New York agent this past spring, reading queries.  A lot of the queries she received were badly presented.  It’s important to always carefully read the publisher or agent guidelines before submitting your work. 

How long does it take you to write a novel?

Cara Mia took fourteen years because I was learning along the way, but now it’s about a year and a half.

Who or what inspires your writing?

 I gain inspiration from reading and the world around me.  Politics always give me something to ponder.  You never know where the next idea will come from.  Sometimes it’s simply the roguish grin of a good-looking young man.  That’s my favourite source.

If there’s a single aspect of writing you find frustrating, what is it? 

Editing and proofing.  Very few people can proof or edit their own work.  I’ve learned it’s okay to seek help and ask a lot of questions. 

Is there a particular feature of writing that you really enjoy? 

Creating characters and world building.  This is the time when the imagination runs wild.

Do you believe creative writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

A bit of both.  Sensitivity and an artist’s view of the world are part of a person’s character, but writing is a craft as well as an art.  The techniques can be acquired through practice.  Imagination, however, is a gift. 

What are you writing now? 

The fourth Immortyl Revolution book and another urban fantasy that is more magic based.  I’m also playing around with a historical fantasy. 

Do you have a website or blog where readers can visit?


Given unlimited resources, where would you do your writing?

Maybe the Amalfi coast?  I’d settle for Cape May, NJ in the summer. 

Where do you actually write?

Sitting on the sofa in my apartment in suburban Ohio, surrounded by my six pet parrots and cuddled up with my Lord of the Rings blanket.  Usually, I’m listening to Queen or David Bowie. 

 PRESS RELEASE:  On June 11th, 2011,  L&L Dreamspell Publishing of Spring, Texas released, My Fearful Symmetry, Book Three of the Immortyl Revolution, the second novel of the urban fantasy vampire series written by Denise Verrico.  Set in 2001, India, Verrico’s story introduces a new vampire hero, Cedric MacKinnon, a temple dancer in service to the Goddess Kali, who learns his beauty and speed render him a lethal weapon.   As in the previous novels, My Fearful Symmetry maintains a science fiction twist on the genre, action-packed thrills and a touch of romance.  This installment follows up her debut novel, Cara Mia, which introduces the characters and world of Immortyl Revolution and its sequel, Twilight of the Gods.  For more information visit the author’s website:
Cara Mia, Book One of the Immortyl Revolution
Mia Disantini is a vampire who wants to walk again in the sun.  Enslaved and plunged into the unenlightened Immortyl culture, fiercely independent Mia struggles for freedom.  Trained as her master Ethan’s “Bird of Prey”, she becomes the pawn of their enigmatic elder, Brovik, in his intrigues concerning the forbidden science.  Cast out into the streets of Manhattan by Ethan, Mia finds the kind of love and compassion she hungers for in Kurt Eisen, who shares her slave status and discontent.  Together the lovers steal their masters’ secrets and deliver them to Genpath Laboratories.  Duped and imprisoned by CEO, Lee Brooks, Mia calls upon the aid of neuroscientist, Dr. Joe Ansari.  But Mia and Kurt are hunted for their crime, and time is running out. 

Twilight of the Gods, Book Two of the Immortyl Revolution
Narrowly escaping the implosion of Genpath laboratories, vampires Mia Disantini and Kurt Eisen are on the run from Gaius Lupus, their rival in the Forbidden Science.  When Kurt is captured by their enemy and rescued with the aid of feral vampire kids known as sewer rats, Mia witnesses first hand the charismatic spell her lover casts over these would-be revolutionaries.  Setting up base in Manhattan, Kurt builds his forces to face off with Gaius, while independent-minded Mia navigates the minefield of sewer rat politics, which she finds very much a man’s world.  The lovers’ deep bond is put to the test by both the beautiful Arturo and Kurt’s followers, who see Mia as standing between them and their beloved “Loki.” Matters are further complicated when the chief elder, Kalidasa, arrives from India to investigate rumors of heresy and revolution.  With the threat of war with Gaius drawing ever closer, Mia ands Kurt prepare to meet the biggest challenge of their lives. 

Excerpt from Twilight of the Gods

Virginia 2001

“Mee-ya? Darling, it’s past nine.”
The kerosene lamp beside the old four-poster bed sputtered.  My eyes opened on Kurt’s in the flickering light. Paul Newman in his prime on a really good day couldn’t compete with those big blues. “Hello, gorgeous.”
He chuckled and eased his slender body over mine, lips searching my throat for the landmarks, while something warm, hard and smooth begged for entrance below.
“I dreamed about Ethan.”
He paused in his delicious pursuit to scowl. “Again?”
“I still chose you.”
A smile fluttered over his alarmingly pale mouth. “I must go out tonight to meet Carol.” He gestured to a plastic bag filled with red liquid sitting in a bath of warm water. “Only a pint left.”
“You take it. I had two last night.” I stroked the warmth poised to enter me. “Amazed you still manage. Better wait.” His lower lip pouted. “I’m not going anywhere.”
He pulled away sighing and sat up, stretching and running his fingers through tangled golden curls, a marble angel with a single blemish, inky and obscene on his left forearm, a vestige of his captivity long ago in Dachau. He lifted the plastic bag out of the basin and inserted a straw, drinking it down. The white linen napkin he used to wipe his mouth came away smeared with red. “I’ll take the bike.”
“I’d feel better if you took the car.”
Brushing damp hair back from my eyes, he kissed me. “The wind feels like freedom.” He pulled on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Despite the late August temperatures of Northern Virginia, it was necessary for him to conceal the tattoo. People might not take too kindly to what looked to be a boy in his late teens making an apparent mockery of others’ misery. Unfortunately for Kurt the misery was all too real and personal.  I rolled over on the huge bed, sheets sticking to my skin. “We really need an air-conditioner.”
Kurt frowned as he buttoned his shirt. “We been through this—no electricity—no noise.”
“I’m tired of tepid baths. I’m dying for a hot shower. Jesus, even Ethan believed in hot running water.”
“Darling, no one must know we’re camping out here. I don’t like it, either. Hopefully, it won’t be much longer. Carol says she has a meeting with the Justice Department next week about a safe house.”
“Yeah, real safe—level four maximum security.”
“We simply won’t agree to it. We’ll figure out something.” He lifted my chin to kiss me. His lips were chilly. He needed lots more than the pint he’d just consumed. “Back in half an hour.”
“Be careful. Take a gun.” He patted a slight bulge under his shirt in the vicinity of his hip. “Don’t worry.”
Kurt left the room. Moments later, gravel crunched as he walked Ethan’s motorcycle down the long drive and through the gate to the road. The bike growled and then buzzed into the distance.  I worried about Kurt out there where our enemies might be lying in wait. Where did he get off becoming so annoyingly male and protective on me? He wasn’t trained to fight. He was small and slight and against a bigger, stronger vampire he was no match.  I was a better shot than he, and I’d already saved his life once.

My Fearful Symmetry, Book Three of The Immortyl Revolution
A boy becomes a vampire and fights to become a man.
Only the most gifted and beautiful Immortyls are chosen to serve Mother Kali as adepts of the ancient arts…

For nineteen-year-old Cedric MacKinnon, the promise of eternal youth and celebrity sounds like a dream come true. It becomes a nightmare when a master vampire plucks the boy from the London streets and spirits him away to India. In the fabled ashram of the adepts of the ancient arts, Cedric undergoes the grueling process of training as a temple dancer and courtesan. With the threat of revolution hanging over court, the chief elder employs the boy he names Shardul in dangerous games of seduction and intrigue. Hated by the chief’s mistress and abused by those he entertains, Cedric struggles with visions of a violent destiny that seem to come from Kali herself. The stakes are heightened when the rebel leader, Loki, is brought to India for trial and Cedric is forced to choose between the protection and patronage of a powerful elder and his love for a female adept.

Excerpt from My Fearful Symmetry
I reached for the golden door to the ashram, only to crumple to my knees again swooning and dizzy.  With the last of my strength, I inched my way on my belly across the open courtyard to my room.  The sky above turned from black to purple to lavender.  In another thirty minutes, the rays of the sun would cook my tattered flesh into Bolognese.  It seemed like a good idea.  I collapsed against the paving stones.  Deep inside of me a voice called my name—only it wasn’t my name.
I lifted my aching head.  The sacred spring lay between my room and me.  The Goddess stood sentinel above the pool.  Hers arms beckoned.  The waters hastened healing.  I pulled myself over and eased in, letting the water bathe my broken skin.  It stung and burned, but at least I knew that I was still alive. 
Kali’s black face looked down.  Her long tongue stuck out as if to taunt me.
I clung with what strength remained to the pool’s stone edge.  “Is this what you mean about the tyranny of the flesh?” But she didn’t answer.  She remained silent and oblivious as death.  “Bitch…” I lost my grasp on the lip of the pool and slipped below the surface, still gazing into her unseeing eyes.
I thrashed, but couldn’t pull myself to the surface.  My body sank like a stone.  Water filled my throat and nostrils.  Consciousness dissipated into an explosion of dots, like colored pixels.  My Mum’s voice floated in my head.
Hush a bye, don’t you cry
Go to sleep my little baby
When you wake, you shall have
All the pretty little horses…
The wavering image above me dissolved into golden skin and waves of dark hair.  The Mother reached out two arms and pulled me from the water.  The avatar’s supple, golden form suggested Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva.  An aura of pulsating color surrounded her.  I sputtered and coughed the liquid out of my lungs, collapsing into my benefactor’s arms.   My head rested against a bosom soft and rounded, not hard and bony. 
She lifted me as if I were a child, bearing me away to my room, and rolled me belly-down onto my bed.  My head lay on its side.  The hand stroking the wet hair away from my face felt warm.  Lips full and red with blood kissed mine.  Was this real, or was I hallucinating? 
The Goddess anointed and bandaged my wounds.  She pressed her own wrist to my lips restore me.  Blood never tasted so sweet.  Warm tears bathed my face as she kissed my mouth again, a sweep of silken hair brushing over my arm.  As she drew back, my eyes focused and her image became clear.
A pained hiss passed my cracked lips.  Sandhya?
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